If you have a talent for writing and are just now looking to get your foot in the door of the publishing world, then this article may be of use to you. Whether you are heavy on the prose or just dabble, breaking into the industry takes patience and talent.
Letters to the editors of various newspapers are a quick and impressive way to share your thoughts and have them published. If there is a big news event, read an article about it and submit your letter to that newspaper or magazine. Make sure you are familiar with the publication's style and guidelines. Write about issues that you are passionate about that are currently making headline such as the presidential elections, for example.
Make sure to never submit the same letter to multiple periodicals. Also, it is not professional to copy and paste a letter that an activist group tells you to submit to a paper. All work should be your own; make sure to write the publication date and name of the article date you are referencing. Point to specific opinions in the article you are writing about and state why you agree or disagree with them. Be yourself; newspapers want to hear from people with diverse opinions. In my experience, an editor called or emailed me with an edited version of my letter, which I approved and confirmed. It is always nice to see yourself published.
Speak to your high school or college guidance counselor about a newspaper internship. This is a good way to get "in," and work your way up. Don't forget to build a portfolio of writing samples. Even for unpaid work, competition is fierce. If you don't follow a publication's submission guidelines, they won't look twice. No one starts out with a Pulitzer or Nobel prize in Literature, but if you have something unique to say and are creative, you are one step closer.
There is a big teenage market for creative writing; why wouldn't publishers want to hear straight from teens? Fresh Ink, an online teen magazine published by the Jewish Week, offers an opportunity for young people to share their views. Also, Youth Communication publishes YC Teen, a magazine for teens by teens. YC Teen has articles and contests relating to teens.
In any industry, you have to start somewhere. Experience is important. So just keep writing, and whatever you get published looks better on your resume. Writing jobs are a plus. To help you in your ambitious quest in the writing world, I spoke with Meish Goldish, an award-winning children's author who also lectures on writing in schools.
When did you first discover your passion for writing?
MG: When I was about 10 years old, I enjoyed writing humorous parodies of popular songs I heard on the radio. Later, I wrote humorous articles for my high school newspaper. I enjoyed writing fiction because I had control over what characters said and did. Today I write both fiction and nonfiction, and I still enjoy the element of control over what I will say and how I will organize and express my thoughts.
How did you first get discovered?
MG: I was a high school English teacher. A colleague left teaching and became an editor at a publishing company. He asked me if I wanted to write a teaching guide over the summer. It's a book that teachers can use to give them ideas in the classroom -- for example, how to introduce a particular story that students will read, questions to ask after each chapter of the story, and creative writing activities after the story is completed. I began my writing career by writing teaching guides, plus workbooks for students. Later, I branched out into writing stories and poems for kids, which is what I primarily do now.
Describe the process of writing a book from first draft to publication.
MG: The first (and often the hardest) step is getting a good idea. I get my ideas from everywhere -- places I go, people I meet, and things I see. For example, after visiting a paper factory, I decided to write a nonfiction book about how paper is made, plus a fiction story called "Paper Party." After getting my idea, I take notes, listing everything I can think of that I might wish to include in my story or book. Then I carefully arrange the notes in what I think will be the best possible order. Using my notes, I write a first draft, which I call "sloppy copy." At this point, I'm more concerned about getting my ideas down on paper than on things like correct spelling or punctuation. Once my draft is done, I let it sit in my desk at least two or three days. Then I take it out and look for ways to revise the text. I may find places where I can delete or add something, or rearrange the order of details to make my ideas clearer to readers. After revising, I proofread, and that's when I pay close attention to spelling, grammar, and punctuation. After typing up the work with no errors (hopefully!), I'm ready to submit it to a publisher. Sometimes an editor will like my work just the way I've submitted it. Other times an editor will ask for changes. I do whatever work is necessary to get the book in shape for publication.
Do you think at e-books make written text less valuable or more accessible?
MG: I don't think e-books cheapen the value of a text. They certain make text more accessible to readers who might not take a book off a library shelf but who will turn on a Kindle and start reading. I'm in favor of presenting writing in any form that will get readers to look at it.
What are your recommendations for new and young writers?
MG: It's a cliche, but as the songwriter Richard Rodgers once said, "Even a cliche has the right to be true." And my cliche is for new and young writers is, "Write about what you know." If you live on a farm, start by writing about that. If you have a large family, write about the people in it, or about characters based on them. If you're a huge baseball enthusiast, write about that. Write about anything where you can easily supply a lot of interesting details. Later, if you like, you can branch out and tackle topics you don't have real-life experience with, but can develop with your imagination.